born 1921, died 1994
Anti-Jewish sentiments are almost universal in the three Arab nations surveyed – 95% or more in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews. 2008 Pew Report
In my previous posting I described the newest manifestations of Jew-hatred in the Egypt of today, and also the conspiracy of silence in the Western press when faced with this inconvenient set of facts. The deep-seated hatred of Jews among Arabs is not new and has often been documented. Perhaps the most thorough of these descriptions is that of Y.Harkabi (“Arab Attitudes to Israel,” Jerusalem, 1972). Now almost forty years old, this classic, indispensable work consists of a content analysis of the Arab press and literature throughout the Middle East. When Harkabi first wrote the book as a dissertation at the Hebrew University in 1967, direct studies of Arab public opinion (opinion polls) were unavailable. Now that they are, for instance in the form of Pew poll data, we are faced with the sad realization that what Harkabi reported in the Arab literature of his day is still with us, and not only as written words, and that the details he gives are descriptive, by and large, of what goes on today.
Before we go to expressions of Arab opinion, much of it consisting of verbal violence, here is the Wikipedia report on an incident in which this verbal violence was acted out in deeds — the lynching of Israeli soldiers during the 2000 Intifada. (And to those who say that Harkabi’s work is so outdated: this incident took place thirty-three years after he wrote.)
The 2000 Ramallah lynching was a violent incident in October 2000 at the beginning of the Second Intifada in which a Palestinian mob lynched two Israel Defense Forces reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz (sometimes spelled as Norzhich) and Yossi Avrahami (or Yosef Avrahami), who had accidentally entered the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah in the West Bank. The brutality of the event, captured in a photo of a Palestinian rioter proudly waving his blood-stained hands to the crowd below, sparked international outrage and further intensified the ongoing conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Aziz Salha, one of the lynchers, waving his blood-stained hands from the police station window. Salha was later arrested by Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment.
One element of current Arab anti-Semitism that was not found in Harkaby’s materials is Holocaust-denial. This aspect of Arab anti-Semitism is relatively new, reaching great prominence only in the 21st century. There is a good description of it in Robert Wistrich’s very important recent A Lethal Obsession, pages 646-661.
Harkabi lists 182 Arab sources, all of which he analyzed in their original language. (Just wondering here: how many Arab books have been studied by Mr. Jimmy Carter, in their original language ? Or by the telling-Israel-what-to-do crowd at J Street ?) Here is a quotation from the Arab writer Nashashibi, who visited Jerusalem before the unification of 1967, and looked over the wall at the Jews of West Jerusalem:
…. a collection of the world’s hooligans and its garbage …. Dogs, robbers, clear out to your own countries !
(We recently heard an echo of that one from Ms. Helen Thomas.) Nashashibi continues somewhat later:
an international dung-heap in which the squalor of the whole world has been collected.
And then there is a quotation from an academic publication, the Egyptian Political Science Review, by the author Fathi Uthman al-Mahlawi (Jan.-March, 1959), among many other such quotations in Harkabi’s book:
And thus Britain wanted to exhaust the strength of the Arabs and divide them, and at one and the same time to get rid of the Zionist plague in her country; she assembled these thousands of vagabonds and aliens, blood-suckers and pimps, and said to them: Take for yourselves a national home called Israel. Thus the dregs of the nations were collected in the Holy Land.
It bears emphasis that these Arab writings, like everything else in Harkabi’s book, date from before the 1967 war. The reason that this needs emphasis is that we hear so often from the חכמים (Wise Men) of J Street, etc., that if only Israel were to go back to its 1967 borders, the Arabs would make peace post-haste. Fat chance !
Current Arab anti-Semitism is regularly reported by Memri and Palestine Media Watch, and there is plenty to report, week in week out: Holocaust denial, description of Jews as descendants of pigs and dogs; allegations that Jews murder gentile children; description of Israel as being similar to Nazi Germany; incitement to hatred in Arab schools and mosques; etc. etc. What we cannot know from such reports is how typical they are of the Arab population. The Pew Report, cited above, is not reassuring in this respect. Moreover, of course, we do not know what the future will bring. Harkabi himself believed that anti-Semitism is not very deeply rooted in Arab culture, and he was cautiously optimistic about prospects for an eventual accommodation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
But whatever the prospects for the future, we cannot afford to be in denial of the current deep, pervasive hatred of Jews in what is known as the “Arab street,” among the Palestinians and among their brethren in all the neighboring countries.